I posed that question to Jonathan Davis, Vice President for External Relations and Head of Raphael Recanati International School at the IDC here in Herzliya.
“The answer is unambiguously yes,” he answered firmly.
Davis would know.
As someone who has resided in the town of Kochav Yair just outside of the Green Line, he lived through the horrors of the Second Intifada, counted its innocent victims and experienced its effect on the Yisraeli society.
“In 2001, Yisrael was caught by surprise with an onslaught of suicide bombers,” he told me. “Their sole aim was to murder as many Yisraeli citizens as possible. In that year, we had a brutal attack in a Tel Aviv Disco, the “Dolphinarium,” where most of the victims were teenagers whose families had made Aliyah from the former Soviet Union. In 2002, there was a deadly attack during the Passover Seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya to use a couple of examples. In both cases, the terrorists came into Yisrael uninterrupted. The ease with which terrorists could just leave their hometowns in Judea and Samaria and enter any town in Yisrael either by car or even on foot was worrisome. Nothing was there to stop them” Davis added. “Even though suicide missions in those years were less than 1% of terrorist acts,” he noted, “they caused the vast majority of deaths.” The number of victims from suicide bombing, as it showed, began to surpass the number of casualties from car accidents. “Just in 2002,” Davis remarked, “17 out of 24 terror attacks were successfully carried out.”
The effects on the Yisraeli morale and economy were likewise devastating. “During that time,” Davis recalled, “we remember a country where parents were afraid to send kids on a bus as they were, in many cases, targets of the suicide bombers. It caused traffic jams outside of schools.” People were impatient, sad, worried, easily irritated. Yisrael became a nation walking with its nerves exposed.
“The effects of these attacks were, likewise, damaging to the Yisraeli economy,” Davis continued as he was describing the sad reality of those years. “Shopping malls were empty as were movie theaters. One could get a room in the most exclusive hotels in Yerushalayim for a mere $100 a night. It created a decrease of 3% in Yisrael’s GDP. In short, “ he concluded, “Yisraeli society, Yisraeli economy were bleeding, literally and figuratively.”
The realization that so many of the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria were readily willing to carry out such suicide missions in return for the rewards that came along with it, religious, monetary and stature coupled with the need to secure Yisraeli citizens and protect them from such attacks gave birth to the idea of erecting the anti-terror barrier. It took two years and billions of NIS to construct it. The barrier is 93% chain link fence and 3% wall. The wall part of it is adjacent to areas where light shooting on drivers in the nearby main thoroughfare can cause casualties. It was designed in a fashion aimed at protecting population centers located near the Green Line.
Due to strategic and demographic considerations, the barrier could not be designed on the Green Line itself in certain spots. There is still one part of the barrier South of Yerushalayim that still needs to be completed. It is through there that the terrorists who committed the recent atrocious attack in the Sarona market infiltrated into Yisrael.
To my question how the barrier has affected the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria, Davis told me that it was mainly those farmers whose land is on the Yisraeli side of the barrier. These, need to come across through a gate, work their land during the day and return home to their villages on the other side at night. David stressed to me that it is important to note that none of the crops of those cultivated field have been minimized as a result of the erection of the barrier.
In addition to the construction of the barrier, other measures have been taken by Yisrael to safeguard its civilians, a fundamental responsibility of any government towards its citizens. More checkpoints and road blocks were set up in order to reduce and lower the operational capabilities of the terrorists. The numbers of these, according to Davis, will be decreased if and when there is evidence that the Arab population in Judea and Samaria ceases to engage in terrorist activities. “They have all been effective,” Davis concluded. I agree with him.
As I was about to leave his office, I casually asked Mr. Davis what he envisioned to be the outcome of the conflict. An avid biker that he is, one who has biked along the barrier many times, Davis would like to see the barrier dismantled and the mountain bike route that runs alongside it turn into a road of Peace where Yisraeli and Palestinian bikers could one day ride next to each other on this scenic drive.
To that, we can only say, Amen and Inshallah!